Free Press Journal

Marathi film Nude questions hypocrisy within Indian society


“When we respect the nude, we will no longer have any shame about it,” these words of Robert Henri, an American painter and teacher are very true.  This is exactly what the Marathi film ‘Nude’ deals with. Nude models from economically affected backgrounds who cannot tell the world outside what work they do.

The film opens with Ravi Jadhav, the film.director and alumni of Sir JJ School of Art, appreciating the nude models without who the art students would not have been able to complete their course. The two main ladies in the film are Yamuna, played by Kalyanee Mulay and her aunt, Chandra (Chhaya Kadam), who are seen are part-time sweepers, but they work as nude models for the art students. The film by Jadhav, a National Award winner, has received good reviews. This Marathi film is one bold one showing the lives of nude models handled aesthetically and without any sensationalism.

Jadhav had always wanted to make a film on nude models, especially to understand what must be going on in their minds when they were made to sit like statues for hours, while the artists have to go beyond surface to understand their skin, texture, muscular build and tone of their bodies. “I always would wonder what goes on in their minds? These are women from poor backgrounds and art students need these nude models, as nude painting is compulsory in the curriculum. They definitely feel lot safer within the four walls with us students than the world outside which gazes at them differently,” said Jadhav.

Yes, the fact is the studio where the nude models pose is secluded. only the models and students are allowed. This is to enable the students to learn and complete the details on the nude painting which goes beyond just the exterior. “The women know students don’t stare at them. We have to focus on the texture of the hair, details on their nails, body proportion, skin tone, muscles and their emotions,” said Jadhav.

JJ School is now one of the only two institutes that has real-life nude painting, other institutes, mainly in Pune tie-up with Sir JJ School and the same nude models go for a week, where workshops are held. Otherwise, they paint nude with the help of sculptors and photographs. Nude painting is taught in the third and fourth year of Fine Art course. In fact, the art students take to it only after they have studied anatomy, body parts to get the exact features of muscles and bone density, which is taught to the students by medical practitioners.

The college is definitely happy the subject of nudity as integral part of art has now been taken to the wider public outside. “Ravi is an alumni of JJ College and film was for our institute. We are happy he has taken this message to the wider society outside,” shared Professor Vishwanath D Sabale, the dean of Sir JJ School of Art.

The storyline is of a lady who is abused by her husband who leaves Yamuna for another woman. Yamuna leaves her marital with her son to live in Mumbai. She comes to live with her aunt, Chandra called Akka in a slum by Mumbai’s docks. Akka sweeps the corridors of the Sir JJ School of Art and poses nude for its painting students. The fact is the models are from poor families, wanting money. These are not strangers, mostly introduced by their family members, who are older women. “We do not have to explain to the models any details since they are all are from within same family. The fact is models and artists do not fear because art is the freedom of an artist and the models are aware of it,” said Rajeev Mishra, Dean of JJ College of Architecture.

The director has tried to show the hypocrisy of the society where Yamuna is shown to first get repulsed by the job but later gets initiated in it. Later she is scorned by her son who is, in fact, learning art, but like his father is muddled in his head.

The film got a lot of traction on social media and there was a lot of discussions and many said the ending is a climax. Few strongly felt disappointed on its ending, which artists interpret as mystical and reflection of our society today. “Jadhav has shown beautifully the world outside and the environment inside the art college. The action of the son is reflection of the society, which does not have adequate and authentic information but draws conclusions immediately and on many occasions react violently. The director has made a comment on our society,” said Santosh Kshirsagar, Dean, Sir JJ Institute of Applied Arts.

Jadhav spent over two hours speaking to different nude models, one even made an appearance at the trial where for the first time her son learnt of his mother’s work field and was proud of her. However, Jadhav said this is rare. In most cases, students do not know where these nude models disappear and what becomes of them. “These models go into oblivion later, disappear and the sad part is nobody knows what happens to them. The end is mysterious and not a definitive one,” defended Jadhav.

As Jadhav says, the film is only a medium to reach out to those many nude models who helped artists in their education and a message to the society to grow up. “The sad part is if students of other art institutions want to go abroad to study, they will not qualify, as nude painting is integral part of the curriculum. This is the loss of our students and our country,” says Jadhav in a parting shot.